For Alumnus, University Ring Comes Full Circle 20 Years Later
In the spring of 1999, high in the air somewhere on a flight between Houston and London, Rob Thomas BS’94 awoke from a nap to find his UT Dallas ring missing from his right ring finger.
“I was in a full panic,” Thomas said. “I searched everywhere – underneath the chairs, down the aisle. I was on my hands and knees, but it was dark, and I couldn’t find it.”
At the time, Thomas was living in Houston but traveling to London while working for Burlington Resources. His career had taken off shortly after he graduated from the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences, a feat that took almost 10 years to achieve. Thomas purchased his UT Dallas ring as a symbol of the sacrifice and hard work it took to earn his degree, and, in an instant, it had seemingly disappeared.
“I knew stepping off that plane that it was gone,” Thomas said.
Twenty years passed before a LinkedIn message paved the way to reunite the graduate with his long-lost ring, a story Thomas told as the featured speaker at the biannual UT Dallas Ring Ceremony on May 13.
Standing in front of a crowd of nearly 100 ring recipients and hundreds of family and friends at the Davidson-Gundy Alumni Center, Thomas told how a man from London posted a photo of the lost ring on Facebook, leading multiple people to contact the University before Thomas received a message from Cody Meyers, director of alumni relations for UT Dallas.
“One thing led to another, and the gentleman from London sent the ring back,” Thomas said.
“I really worked hard for this ring, and each of you worked really hard for your ring. It’s the symbol of the effort that you put forth. I encourage you to keep it close; it’s now a part of you – a part of the sacrifice you made – and it will serve you well going forward.”
In 1999, the gentleman, Darren de Vries, a native of Essex, England, was catching up with Grant Lunn, a friend who had just returned to London from Houston. During that meeting, Lunn showed de Vries a college ring he had found on his flight back home. De Vries took possession of the ring, but his attempts to return it weren’t successful until he turned to Facebook earlier this year.
“It was the right thing to do,” de Vries said. “It had sentimental value to the owner, and there’s always a satisfying feeling when a good deed is done.”
Two decades later, the ring is back on the right hand of Thomas, who was reminded of the time and effort it took to earn it.
“I really worked hard for this ring, and each of you worked really hard for your ring,” Thomas told the ceremony participants. “It’s the symbol of the effort that you put forth. I encourage you to keep it close; it’s now a part of you – a part of the sacrifice you made – and it will serve you well going forward.”
After Thomas’ remarks and the presentation of the rings, the recipients participated in the traditional ring dunking in the reflecting pools on the Margaret McDermott Mall before celebrating with loved ones at a reception in Texas Instruments Inspiration Hall.
“I decided to get a UT Dallas ring because I am very thankful for my education here,” Hollis Ratliff BS’19 said. “I wanted to carry around a little bit of UTD because I just really appreciate what the school did for me.”
The story of Thomas’ ring didn’t end once it was back on his finger. Now the vice president of information technology and chief information officer at Kosmos Energy, Thomas still travels to London. After his ring was returned, Thomas arranged a meeting with de Vries at a London pub in early March. And as a token of appreciation, Thomas brought de Vries a chrome belt buckle adorned with the star of Texas.
“Meeting Rob was incredible,” de Vries said. “To see this man reunited with his ring that had been in my possession for 20 years was surreal. We had a good laugh, talked about our professions and got a bit emotional.”